There is a question in the minds of Manchester United supporters at this moment in time; will Paul Pogba ever play for United again? It is something that many have been asking this season, well since he last played for the club in the 4-1 Boxing Day victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League where he replaced the injured Scott McTominay, playing 45 minutes in that game.
Of course, after this match, Pogba suffered another ankle injury, something he had just recovered from which started back in September, meaning he missed three matches. A recurrence of the injury put him on the sidelines for a further 17 matches, meaning he had missed 20 matches because of this particular injury. Currently, he has missed 10 matches with his most recent ankle injury.
There have been many rumours surrounding Pogba, which has been the case since he returned to the club; in the summer of 2018. just two years after his return to United, the Frenchman was linked to Barcelona – the summer France won the FIFA World Cup. Nothing ever materialised with this rumoured interest. The following summer, after stating that he wanted a new challenge, Pogba was linked to Real Madrid, which never materialised either.
“Like you said, there is a lot of talking and a lot of thinking as well. For me I have been for three years in Manchester and it’s been great – some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody, everywhere else.
“After this season, and after everything that happened this season, with my season being my best season as well… I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else. I am thinking of this – to have a new challenge somewhere else.”
Does Paul Pogba have the hunger, determination and ability to have this team built around him?
This is something that I question. When Pogba returned to United in the summer of 2016, he made out that he had unfinished business at the club. Granted, in the time he has been back, he has won the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League. In November 2018, just before the sacking of Jose Mourinho, Pogba gave an interview to Inside United where he talked about returning to United being the ‘best feeling ever’. Yet just months later, a new challenge was seemingly on the cards.
“When I came back to United, it was the best feeling ever.I came back home.
“I always dreamed of playing for United, to have many games and score goals. Nothing had really changed, except for maybe the team and the manager, but the rest of the club was the same.
“I just came back home, it was like I didn’t really leave – I just went on holiday! [laughs]. It was a great feeling to come back home.”
A lot could have happened in the background to change the stance of Pogba from the above comments, which are overtly positive to the ‘new challenge’ comments around eight months later, something must have changed. Pogba seemed to be under-fire by Mourinho and his sacking may have changed things but the fact that the player still does not seem to be happy, perhaps he is not happy with the club based on the things that have happened recently.
United are a fallen giant and perhaps Pogba was sold on coming back to United because he was promised something that has not materialised. Maybe Ed Woodward, the clubs executive vice-chairman promised to build the squad around him, which has not happened as it needed to. Looking at the way United are right now, there will need to be a lot of money spent on players that have the right skills, disciplines and mindsets to set the club in the right direction. It may be too late to change Pogba’s mind. However, this may not be the case.
Does Paul Pogba have the right attitude to play for Manchester United?
It is well-known that Sir Alex Ferguson was not a fan of Pogba’s attitude when he walked away from the club as a free agent back in the summer of 2012. The French midfielder was apparently offered a new contract by United but decided to sign for Juventus instead, spending four years at the club, playing 178 times and scoring 34 goals for the Italian club, winning the Series A four times, the Coppa Italia twice and the Supercoppa Italiana twice.
At the time Pogba left United in the summer of 2012, Ferguson, who had given the player chances but felt he was not ready to step into the first team at the time, which is why Paul Scholes stepped back out of retirement for a while – to bolster the ailing midfield. This may have made Pogba’s mind up about leaving – especially if a player in his late 30s was more highly-rated than him. Speaking about Pogba leaving back in 2012, Ferguson said:
“[Paul] Pogba signed for Juventus a long time ago as far as we’re aware. It’s a bit disappointing because I don’t think he showed us any respect at all. To be honest, if they carry on that way, I’m quite happy that he’s away, from me, anyway.”
Of course, it was not just Pogba that Ferguson had a problem with, it was his agent, Mino Raiola. I must say, I can see why Raiola is not liked. He’s greedy, abrasive and seems to think he can always get what he and his clients want all of the time, which is not always the case. Raiola is not liked by many in the footballing world but seems to get many high-profile clients, seemingly entrusting in them when they were younger. Ferguson, speaking about Raiola in his book, Leading, said:
“There are one or two football agents I simply do not like. And Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them. I distrusted him from the moment I met him. He became Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agent while he was playing for Ajax, and eventually he would end up representing Pogba, who was only 18 years old at the time.
“We had Paul under a three-year contract, and it had a one-year renewal option which we were eager to sign. But Raiola suddenly appeared on the scene and our first meeting was a fiasco.
“He and I were like oil and water. From then on, our goose was cooked because Raiola had been able to ingratiate himself with Paul and his family and the player signed with Juventus.”
Since Pogba has returned to United, he has played a total of 143 times, scoring 31 goals. The 2019/20 season will have been his fourth season back at United, despite injuries keeping him out of the majority of matches. The 2018/19 season was probably his best at the club which saw him score 16 goals and 11 assists in 47 appearances. In the Premier League, compared to other United players, he scored the most goals, assists, shots on target, take-ons, fouls won, chances created, possession won, duels won, and chances in the final third.
At times though, Pogba may not have been seen as the player busting a gut to help drive United forward. There are very few times when Pogba has guided the team as the most inspiring player on the pitch. That match against Manchester City in the Premier League at the Etihad, of which United were 2-0 down at the break with Pogba inspiring United to a 3-2 victory – seems to be the only real occasion that he has lit the world on fire in a match.
There may be other cases, this is the best case. Most of the time, he dawdles on the pitch and has not looked like he has cared much. This is my opinion and the way I feel, I cannot answer for other people. There will be many out there who will always defend Pogba. In terms of Pogba having the right attitude to play for United, I am still waiting to be sold on that. He has a lot to prove, especially if he does want to stay at the club. Personally, I think it is clear that he wants to move on, however, the fact that he has 12 months left on his contract at the end of the season and that United have a further 12 months to add, could mean the buying club will have to spend big to get him.
Will Paul Pogba play for Manchester United again?
This is the question that, at this moment in time, looks unlikely. It was suggested that Pogba could be fit this month but as he did not travel on the clubs winter training break in Spain this week, it seems unlikely that he will be back in action soon, unless he is training behind the scenes at the club Carrington training ground. Of course, after surgery and having a cast on his ankle, Pogba will be some time away from ball work, which could be the reason he stayed behind.
United have 16 matches remaining at this moment in time. Advancing in the UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup might add at least three more matches, if they advance in both competitions. Pogba is running out of time to be fit. Pogba has been pencilled in to be back in action by the 5 March 2020, which incidentally is the date are due to face Derby County at Pride Park in the sixth round of the FA Cup. Both Manchester City (home) and Tottenham Hotspur (away) lie in wait after this fixture, so Pogba may need to be at his best. There is a chance he could miss these fixtures.
It seems like his injury has dragged on for the entire season so far. His season has not been impressive, although he did register two assists against Chelsea in the first match of the Premier League season, which will become his highlight reel so far. The ankle injury in September, which returned in October, derailed his season. Then, the injury to the other ankle seems to have made things worse. It kind of makes it look like Pogba does not want to play but injuries are not something that the player or the club can control.
I would like to see Pogba play for United again. He is a world-class midfielder. Now that Bruno Fernandes has been signed and Scott McTominay seems to be close to returning, not to mention the form of Nemanja Matic of late, having Pogba in the team could be good for the club. With United having experienced midfield options to choose from, especially having two attack-minded midfielders, the creativity that could come from this is interesting. However, I fully expect the injury to drag on into late March, then to April and before you know it May is here and the season is nearly over. It is cynical of me but it seems to be what has happened so far this season, you cannot blame me for thinking it could continue to happen.